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British Native Trees

Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris)

Scots Pine
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The outline of a juvenile Scots Pine alters as it matures losing its lower branches to form a flatter spreading crown. A mature tree can rise to 120ft (36m)

Apart from being a native of the once extensive Caledonian pine forests, the Scots pine is widely distributed around the globe in places such as Siberia, The Artic Circle, Scandinavia and Southern Spain.

There are several distinguishing features of the Scots Pine. The first is the variation of the barks colour and texture with age. A young sapling’s bark is paper-thin and often orange-red in colour, where as the mature tree has thick, craggy flakes of bark up to 5 cm thick and red-brown in colour. The needles of this tree grow in pairs to about 5cm in length and are blue-green in colour.

  • Scots Pine performs best on drier, well-drained sites in the east of the country and also on north facing slopes in Scotland, possibly due to the wetter conditions providing protection from fires.
  • Today, seed from managed seed stands provides stock of higher quality than that available from the remnant Caledonian Pine stands
  • It can grow in different altitudes ranging from sea level to 2400m
  • The trees can have an extensive life span of 250-300 years
  • At chest height the girth can measure up to 2.4m (8ft)
  • If a Scots Pine dies while standing it’s skeleton can remain for 50 to 100 years due to the high resin content in the sap, which causes slow decay.

The male and female flowers both grow on the tree and flower in May. The female flowers grow on the tips of the more exposed branches and the male flowers cluster together in the branches below. Once wind pollination occurs it takes 2 years for a fertilised female flower to form a fully-grown cone.

Cone production can vary with the condition of the seasons. In a season with good weather a tree can produce 3000 cones, which usually flower in April. The seeds produced by the cones can be carried as far as 50 – 100m from the parent tree and prefer exposed well-drained mineral soil to germinate.

Related Links

- British-Trees.com - Scots Pine
- The Forestry Commission - Scots Pine


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